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ND Women’s Soccer

No. 11 Clemson hands No. 10 Notre Dame its first loss of season

| Monday, September 21, 2015

No. 10 Notre Dame fell for the first time this season Saturday, as it dropped a tight conference opener against No. 11 Clemson in double overtime, 1-0, at Riggs Field in Clemson, South Carolina.

Tigers junior defender Claire Wagner scored the winning goal in the 102nd minute to knock off the Irish (7-1-1, 0-1-0 ACC) in a match that was too tight for regulation to decide.

Notre Dame came out of the gate strong, firing the game’s first four shots, including a set piece that resulted in three successive shots in the ninth minute, which the Irish could not capitalize on. However, the Tigers (7-0-1, 1-0-0) controlled the attack the rest of the half as they had the last seven shots of the first half.

Irish senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson jockeys for a loose ball during a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara on Aug. 28.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson jockeys for a loose ball during a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara on Aug. 28.

In the second half, the Irish once again started strongly, as they outshot the Tigers 6-0 in the first 25 minutes of the second half, including two shots on target from senior forward Anna Maria Gilbertson. However, these opportunities continued to translate into little success as Tigers junior goalie Kailen Sheridan made several key saves to keep the game scoreless and force overtime. Irish head coach Theresa Romagnolo said she did not think her team was aggressive enough on offense during the regulation period.

“I don’t think we played particularly well,” Romagnolo said. “Offensively, we were a little bit off of our game. We weren’t very aggressive-minded. I think we needed to compete more and battle. We needed more composure in our attack.”

The first overtime period was once again controlled by Notre Dame, as it outshot Clemson 5-0 in the period. However, only one of these shots was put on target, and the Tigers were able to force the second overtime period. Then, just two minutes into the period, Wagner scored from 20 yards out to win the game for host Clemson.

Although Romagnolo was not satisfied with her team’s offensive performance in the loss, she said she was happy with its play on defense during the game.

“For the most part, we defended well,” Romagnolo said. “Clemson plays a pretty direct style of soccer, and I think we did a good job of getting in front of the ball and clearing it.

“On the goal, there was just a breakdown in communication. The girl was crossing it, and we didn’t clear it or save it, and it just kind of bent into the back post. It was just an unlucky, weird cross-shot that we weren’t prepared for. Other than that, we defended well.”

After falling to a strong Clemson team to open conference play, Notre Dame is now set to take on the top two teams in the nation, No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 Florida State, in its next two games. Playing in arguably the strongest conference in the NCAA, the Irish have a good enough team to beat anyone, but there is still much improvement to be had, Romagnolo said.

“Every game is a learning experience,” she said. “We’re about midway through the regular season, and we’re continually trying to improve ourselves. [Maintaining our composure] is something that we need to really focus on and make a big effort to be better at. We need to work at having the class to play out of the initial pressure and have good decision-making on the ball.

“And having an aggressive mindset is something that’s important. Everyone in the ACC is a good team so you have to show up against everyone, and you got to be your best. You can’t get by at just being good. My emphasis is on attacking every opportunity because we only have one shot at this season, and we want to be our best at every opportunity that we have. We can play with everybody if we play our best, but we lose some control over the game if we aren’t aggressive.”

Notre Dame will next take the pitch when they travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, to take on top-ranked Virginia at Klockner Stadium on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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About Benjamin Padanilam

As The Observer's Editor-in-Chief, Ben is a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) who is pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics as well. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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